Israel’s Tamar Fuels Dreams of Energy Independence

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ASHDOD, Israel -- Israel hopes it can one day reach energy independence now that natural gas is flowing from a large offshore reserve.

Four years after its discovery, the Tamar reservoir began supplying Israel with natural gas from the Mediterranean Sea that will fuel its electric power plants.

The Tamar field is located about 60 miles off the coast of Haifa, Israel's northernmost seaport. Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom declared it a day of energy independence.

"From now on Israel can provide its needs for the next decades," Shalom said. "It's much cheaper and, of course, it's much cleaner and from now on the whole energy market will save at least 1 billion shekels every month. It means about $300 million every month."

That savings begins in the Mediterranean and then makes its way to Israel. The natural gas flows through an underwater pipeline for about 100 miles to a platform off the coast of the Israeli port of Ashdod, just north of Ashkelon.

It's predicted that Tamar wells could eventually produce more than four times the energy value of Saudi Arabian wells.

"Natural gas is a very good companion in a sense to solar and that could help make Israel very independent and secure with respect to its electricity generation not needing to import anything," former CIA director and energy expert James Woolsey told CBN News.

Before the fall of the Mubarak regime, Egypt supplied about half of Israel's natural gas needs. Afterwards, extremists blew up the pipeline almost continuously, leading to the permanent cutoff of the supply.

"The latest events in the region, not just in Egypt, only enhanced the feel that we need to rely on our own resources, and thank God we have enough natural gas to supply all our needs," Gideon Tadmor, president and CEO of Delek International Energy Ltd., told CBN News.

Still, some experts say there are risks involved.

"Imagine that in two years' time, 70 percent of the electricity, most of the fuel for industry and for transportation and other uses, is going to be based on gas from one field, which is subject to strategic threat, a threat of missile attacks," energy expert Dr. Amit Mor told CBN News.

But Woolsey recently said the fields represent a strategic advantage for Israel.

"Israel is certainly a lot better off in terms of its energy independence from having found these gas fields," Woolsey said.

An even larger gas field, called Leviathan, is expected to come on line in three years. That reservoir is expected to take Israel not only from energy independence, but to energy exporter.

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